The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has added the rusty bumblebee on the list of endangered species, making it the first ever bee species living in the continental U.S. to reach this status.
Bumblebees, this buzzing species would hardly seem to be endangered. However, last year saw the addition of six such species to the endangered list. The respective bees are Hawaii aboriginals. Hawaii is facing a bee crisis as their native species are being outrun by invaders.
Now, a new bee species will receive the unenviable endangered distinction. This is the rusty-patched bumblebee. Bombus affinis is the first continental U.S. bumblebee to gain the status.
On Tuesday, the United States Fish & Wildlife Services released an announcement. They declared the rusty-patched bumblebee a protected species. As such, it was added to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. It is also the first bee from the Lower 48 states to be included on it.
The decision could seem quite surprising. Some 20 years ago, the rusty bumblebee was quite a common buzzer. It was found in abundant numbers in 28 states. The District of Columbia also housed an abundant number of such bees.
However, over these past years, things took a drastic turn. Since the 1990’s, rusty bumblebee numbers have greatly fallen. They are believed to have decreased by 87 percent.
According to the aforementioned state agency, their population is now small and scattered. It can be found in just about 13 states. And the species is almost extinct. Some remaining colonies are very small. Researchers fear they might not even exist anymore.
Rusty bumblebees are very important to our ecosystem. They play a key role in the pollination process. This species is believed to be especially good at pollinating. Some plants are known to be self-pollinators. Even these can be affected by a rusty bumblebee pollination. Such plants were noted to give bigger fruits. They were also seen to produce them in higher numbers.
Rusty-patched bumblebees are amongst the nation’s pollinating service insects. Taken together, they have a considerable economic value. They yearly activity is worth an estimated $3 billion in the U.S. Their natural and ecosystem contribution is invaluable.
Tom Melius went to offer a few details. He is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director. According to Melius, the rusty patch has a similar status with the monarch butterfly. They are both, unfortunately, experiencing a serious decline in numbers.
Still, he also drew attention to a fact. The rusty bumblebee should not be overlooked. Melius stated as follows. “Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world.”
He also drew attention to another factor. “Without them, our forests, parks, meadows and shrublands, and the abundant, vibrant life they support, cannot survive”. As such, our crops would require “laborious, costly pollination by hand”.
The sharp decrease in numbers could have been caused by various facts. Some of them are related to human activities. More exactly, the use of pesticides. Habitat loss is also considered one of the main factors. Fauna and flora parasites and diseases are a natural cause. As are the climate changes. These can affect the flowers’ availability and production.
According to Mellis, “Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee.” Adding the species to the endangered should help. It could help “mobilize partners and focus resources on finding ways right now to stop the decline”.
The rusty bumblebee final endangered species ruling will appear on January 11. It will be added to the Federal Register and should come into effect starting with February 10.
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